The editor-in-chief of the Mirror titles has indicated that their parent group will face deeper job losses across its 5,000-plus workforce if it fails to seal a £130m deal to buy Richard Desmond’s Express and Star newspapers and celebrity magazine OK!
Lloyd Embley also said Trinity Mirror was preparing to reveal an “embarrassing” gender pay gap with the enforced publication of official figures, because senior positions at the newspaper group are dominated by men.
Embley said that the talks to buy Express Newspapers were taking longer than expected and would overshoot this year’s target timeline. Previous talks to buy the newspapers failed two years ago.
“The original aim was to try and have something done, if not completed, by the end of the year,” said Embley in a staff Q&A session. He added: “We are still hopeful and optimistic that it is still going in the right direction.”
Embley said that a takeover of the Express titles would generate significant cost savings, including the cutting of staff, but that if a deal did not go through Trinity Mirror would face even bigger cuts.
Trinity Mirror, which also owns a large regional newspaper portfolio including the Manchester Evening News and Birmingham Post, employs more than 5,300 staff. About 2,200 of those are in editorial, with 700 of the editorial staff employed on the national titles and 1,500 on the regionals.
“It will be impossible for me to stand here and say [the deal] won’t mean job losses, there has to be,” said Embley. However, he gave a strong indication that worse could be in store if the deal does not go ahead. “What it will mean is we will be in a far more secure place once we have gone through putting ourselves together. This option is a considerably better option than the option [if there was no deal] we would have to look at if we didn’t buy it.”
Embley pointed to Trinity Mirror’s “massive” pension deficit, which stands at £406m, saying that with newspaper groups facing extremely tough advertising and sales conditions it needs the deal to fund increasing obligations that eat into profits.
Staff also asked Embley how Trinity Mirror’s gender pay gap was likely to compare with the BBC, which stands at about 9% difference between men and women, when it is publicly revealed.
“Worse,” he said. “I think it is going to come out worse. Clearly it will be a bit embarrassing.” He added: “We have far more very senior people who are almost exclusively men and that throws [the figures] a lot – they get paid more.”
Embley said that the embarrassing gender gap figures will force change at the publicly listed company.
“If that doesn’t prompt some kind of change then there are going to be issues,” he said. “Shareholders are going to be asking questions. The board are going to be asking questions because they will be in the firing line. We are the Mirror, we champion certain causes and things. Rightly so, if we can’t get our own house in order then it doesn’t look great, does it.”
In 2016, the UK gender pay gap was 9.4% for full-time workers, or 18.1% for all staff.